Reflections Upon My First Week of My Proactive Medical Plan

I learned a lot this first week, with some successes and a few mistakes.  First, as I will also discuss in more detail in an upcoming post, I now have a deeper understanding of how my proactive medical plan can work with conducting personal science.   Specifically, I recognize that this month of work is not really sufficient in duration to state whether it has resulted in improvements that are likely to last.  But it is a month that can start the necessary habits, gain preliminary data, and test out methodologies on a small scale to “kick-start” a full year-long self-study.  I also believe that I will be able to use a methodology that is replicable, so that my data point could be combined with other people who choose to follow the same methodology so that each of our personal experiments can contribute a small portion to the collective knowledge about health and fitness.

This week has also been one where I have narrowed down what part of my health I am going to focus on measuring for the month.  My current “ongoing health conditions” as diagnosed by my doctor with Kaiser Permanente are obesity and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol).  Both of these conditions have a correlation to potential heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.  Although there is a question of causality with body fat, as from what I understand, there is evidence to suggest that people who get fat removed via liposuction don’t necessarily have a lower risk of heart disease than they did before the procedure.  With high cholesterol, at least with LDL, there is more evidence to suggest a causality to heart disease.  I also previously was starting to have signs of having hypertension (high blood pressure), which also correlates to getting heart disease.

But, whether there is causality or not with these, the correlation is very strong, and I believe that it is highly likely that by improving my diet and getting more cardiovascular exercise that these will reduce my weight & body mass index along with lowering my LDL cholesterol and also improve my chances of not getting various forms of heart disease and/or other cardiovascular conditions.   I also want to work in the future on my strength and balance, but for this first month, while strength and balance exercises will be part of my activities, my major focus and rigorous measurements will all be about my cardiovascular health.

Regarding the implementation of my plan, I feel have been tracking my diet very well, although every day thus far I have gone above my target caloric intake.  I have found MyFitnessPal to be an excellent app to help track this, and its bar code scanner is very helpful, and I find it kind of fun to use.

I have also worked out every day this week, with 4 out of the 5 weekdays being with the Move to Thrive program with Kaiser, except Thursday when I worked out at California Family Fitness.  I will be measuring my exercise workout by looking at the total steps & estimated distance I’m going through the workout, and throughout the day, and also through measuring my heart rate during the workouts.

To measure my steps, I’m using the Accupedo pedometer app for my Android phone,  which seems to be the most accurate pedometer application, that works to have an algorithm that filters out “false positive” steps (for example if I am sitting in a chair, and move a little, Accupedo will generally not show that as a step, while most pedometers would.)

To measure my heart rate, I purchased a Scosche IPTM myTREK – Wireless Pulse Monitor, which while it has had mixed reviews on Amazon, it has won several awards, including Design and Engineering Showcase Honors at the 2011 Innovations International CES, being a Best of Show Finalist for 2011 with, being the Best of Show for 2011 at Macworld, and being the Future Tech Winner for Best Mobile Device with CES 2011.  It was also reasonably priced through Amazon.

Several reviewers said that the problem with the myTREK was the software it came with, and recommended Digifit instead, so I purchased Digifit iCardio, and it seems to be presenting results inline with other heart rate monitors I’ve used on the exercise equipment at the gym, and has some good tracking and exporting features.  It also has an excellent GPS system to track speed and distance of walking, etc.  Digifit iCardio also allows tracking of other self-quantifying information about the workouts (although it doesn’t appear to export this additional information right now.)

To measure the results of my work, I am measuring my weight (and thus deriving my body mass index) via several sources.  To see my historical weight/bmi, I’m using Kaiser’s data and also the data from a few old driver’s licenses that I have kept, including my first one from my 18th birthday.  I also am using the data from the Wii Balance board as entered into Wii Fit Plus, which I have been using off and on for a few years, and which I am now using on a nightly basis to record my activities (as fit credits), my weight, my balance, my waist size (every few days), and will be storing my pedometer entries. I am also getting my blood pressure screened daily through Kaiser, and I had that done every day this week.  I also plan to get a body fat test done with California Family Fitness, and will get my resting metabolic rate tested with Kaiser (see below about how I couldn’t get it done this week).   In addition, after my month of working on my diet and exercise, I think my doctor will let me take another Cholesterol test to see if there has been any effect with my hyperlipidemia.

My biggest mistake this week, was that I wasn’t able to get my Resting Metabolic Rate checked, because the morning I was to go in, I forgot not to take my wake-up caffeine pill (I will explain more about my daily caffeine, and how it has really improved my sleep schedule in a future post).  So since I took the caffeine pill, and even though it was 5 hours earlier from the appointment, and I had followed all the other guidelines, they felt I shouldn’t take the test then.   I rescheduled the test, but I really would have liked to have been able to get my results already.   I also didn’t get my myTREK until late in the week, and when I first was going to use it at one of the Move to Thrive chair exercise classes, I forgot to actually tell the Digifit software to start recording the data.

So, overall, a good first week of the proactive medical plan.  I am working on continuing my work on my diet over the weekends also, and may or may not do the additional exercise on the weekends.

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